Unanimous Senate vote sends dual-enrollment bill to Georgia’s House

Comprehensive coverage

The Atlanta Journal-Constitution has Georgia’s largest team at the Gold Dome for this year’s legislative session. To find the most expertise on issues that matter to taxpayers, go to myAJC.com/georgialegislature.

Georgia high school students could jump-start their future by completing college courses and having the credit count toward their high school diploma under a bill passed unanimously Tuesday by the state Senate.

The bipartisan Senate Bill 2 would allow high school students to enroll in a college or university if they can pass a college entrance exam and have completed freshman- and sophomore-level high school course work. When they complete a degree or certificate program, their college-level courses would satisfy 11th- and 12th-grade requirements and allow them to also receive a high school diploma.

It’s a step further than existing dual-enrollment programs in Georgia, which also allow college course work to count toward high school but are generally geared toward academically outstanding high school students. SB 2 essentially opens the door to students who are smart in their own way and want work-ready skills often taught at the state’s two-year institutions.

"One size does not fit all students," said the bill's sponsor, Senate Education and Youth Committee Chairman Lindsey Tippins, R-Marietta. "I believe it has the potential to be a game-changer for students in the state of Georgia."

The bill, which was part of the Senate majority agenda, has been championed by Lt. Gov. Casey Cagle and has the support of university and technical colleges leaders, as well as state schools Superintendent Richard Woods.

It also has strong support from business, and it has been touted as another method for filling some high-demand and hard-to-fill jobs needed for companies operating in the state. Those companies have said the lack of skilled workers has forced them to look outside Georgia for employees.

"This bill's in keeping with the White House's recognition of the importance of community colleges and technical colleges," said Senate Minority Whip Vincent Fort, D-Atlanta, one of several Democrats who voiced support for the effort. "I think this is a bipartisan approach to make sure two-year schools are at the center of educating our young people."

The bill includes a provision requiring the Technical College System of Georgia to identify fields of study with critical needs or a shortage of trained workers and share the information with the state and local education leaders. Under the bill, participating students must be at least 16 years old.

SB 2 now goes to the state House for consideration.